Oregon health exchange turns up heat on Oracle over programming 'bugs' [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.]
(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 16--As Oracle Corp. programmers try to fix problems with its work on the state's health insurance website, Cover Oregon is bringing in outside experts to make sure the company isn't adding new bugs at the same time.
The exchange's interim director, Bruce Goldberg, said Monday he's hiring people with the skills to look at programming code as it is being written to ensure "it is done correctly and we don't have to continue to go back and fix bugs in the system."
Goldberg's statement turns up the heat on Oracle and provides perhaps the most direct acknowledgement yet that the exchange's questions about Oracle's work quality are ongoing, despite repeated new infusions of talent by the firm and promises to make things right.
"We'd like to have a website that is usable, that helps people enroll," Goldberg said of the project, which has already paid Oracle $90 million. "That's what we thought we were buying."
Oracle executives have declined repeated requests to comment.
Until last month, Cover Oregon officials had maintained the website is not broken, it's just not finished. Now, Cover Oregon is hiring outside lawyers to review Oracle's work, withholding $18 million in payments and speaking with other software companies who have offered to help fix Oregon's problem.
Goldberg said the exchange will continue working with Oracle in the hope of getting the exchange to function as planned, enrolling Oregonians in health insurance and qualifying some for tax credits to reduce premiums.
Once that is done, "I'm sure we'll have a great deal of discussions (with Oracle) about how to settle up," he said.
Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority continue to pay hundreds of temporary workers to process paper applications. The cost for December alone is at least $4 million, and "I think that the contractor bears some responsibility for paying for that," Goldberg said.
Goldberg, who is on temporary loan from his job heading the Oregon Health Authority, also acknowledged the OHA made a critical mistake when it hired Oracle to build the project but not someone with the expertise to oversee the California-based software giant.
As The Oregonian reported last weekend, the Oregon Health Authority had planned on hiring what amounts to an information-technology general contractor -- known as a systems integrator. Three state consultants had endorsed the move, citing the state's lack of expertise.
Instead, Goldberg's then-new Chief Information Officer Carolyn Lawson, canceled that approach in 2011 saying the state would be its own integrator. Oregon was one of the only states building an exchange to not use an integrator to oversee the entire project.
Lawson last week defended her decision as the right one, but Goldberg on Monday called a systems integrator "certainly something that, in retrospect, would have been beneficial."
Goldberg also admitted officials should have "acted more quickly" in May when OHA and Cover Oregon officials realized they had a quality problem on their hands.
Cover Oregon's move Monday to hire programming code specialists comes a month after an outside consultant recommended it, internal emails show. John Cvetko wrote Nov. 19 that the exchange should "embed" experts in Oracle's work because the firm's programming code was "sub-par" and the company was not appropriately checking its work.
In his email, Cvetko rejected the idea that quality control would delay the project, saying the exchange "has heard that for the last 6 months from Oracle and it obviously is not true."
(c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
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